At approximately 12:12 pm on 6 February, an 8.0 magnitude undersea earthquake occurred 33km west-southwest of the Santa Cruz Islands and generated a tsunami in the Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the earthquake had a depth of 28.7 kilometres. Following the original earthquake and tsunami, there have been more than 130 aftershocks. At least nine of these aftershocks have been 6.0 magnitude of higher, with two above 7.0 magnitude.
A number of villages in the Solomon Islands’ southeastern province of Temotu (approximate population of 20,000) have suffered extensive damage. The earthquake and tsunami destroyed (completely and partially) more than 600 homes, affecting up to 3,500 people and causing the death of 10 individuals.
The Solomon Islands Red Cross (SIRC) is working closely with the government and other partners to conduct assessments, coordinate relief distributions, produce safe drinking water, assist with emergency shelters, establish tracing services (Restoring Family Links) and provide psychosocial support.
Of the confirmed 3,329 people displaced, most people have moved to higher ground utilizing shelter materials provided by the SIRC and other agencies. Others are being accommodated by relatives, friends, or at schools and churches serving as temporary shelters in Lata (population 2,300), the capital of Temotu Province. The issue of displaced communities remains a concern as many people are still camping in the hills due to ongoing seismic activity. Walking to reach all these displaced communities is demanding for the insufficient number of SIRC volunteers available to the operation. Many of these temporary settlements have poor sanitation capacity and are far from water sources. Therefore, good health and hygiene practices are being actively promoted. Security is well managed in these locations.
The water supply in Lata was significantly damaged, affecting more than 2,300 people. Although the town water supply to Graciosa Bay and Lata has been repaired, access to safe water supply and sanitation of affected communities remains a major concern.
The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) believes there are no more gaps in the immediate relief supplies required. However, the Solomon Islands Government’s and NGOs’ prepositioned stocks both in Honiara and Lata have been depleted and support is being sought to replenish these stocks.
The terminal building at Lata Airport and the Lata wharf both sustained damages but are now operational. The Lata wharf will require further repairs to ensure its long term safety and functionality.